NELP Commends Relief for Workers in Coronavirus Package, Calls for More to Be Done

Washington, DC – The National Employment Law Project (NELP) recognized the significant aid secured in the coronavirus package passed by the U.S. Senate and made clear that wider and longer-term support is necessary.  “NELP applauds the U.S. Senate for coming together to pass this critical relief package for millions of workers in the formal economy whose incomes have been wiped out by this crisis⁠, said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of NELP. “Still, much more needs to be done to support the health, safety, and economic security of workers who face the most structural barriers, Black and Latinx workers, underpaid workers, women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and formerly incarcerated people, including those laboring in the informal economy.”

NELP commends the workers, advocates, and legislators who secured the following crisis support, and is proud to have taken part in the effort:


The bill includes $250 billion in temporary enhancements to the unemployment insurance (UI) system through 2020, including a $600 increase in the weekly checks of unemployed workers; a special disaster relief program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that expands UI coverage to self-employed workers, gig workers, and independent contractors; and a temporary 13-week extension of UI benefits, among other features.

Gig Workers

Many people in today’s workforce are laboring as independent contractors, gig workers, and freelancers. While some states are properly processing misclassified workers’ claims for regular unemployment insurance, many are not. Still others are directly excluded from state unemployment coverage, making it essential that they be included in this relief bill. Black and Latinx workers are overrepresented in low-wage sectors like transportation and warehousing and home health care that are marked by a higher prevalence of independent contracting.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

The extra $600 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation that will be available through July 31 will put a lot of people’s minds at ease, as it means that their UI benefits will be close to full wage replacement. It’s a great start, but Congress must be prepared to extend this beyond July 31, as well as to extend PUA and the initial 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation through 2020 and beyond, if necessary.

Worksharing and UI

The bill also includes welcomed funding to help states implement, improve, and promote work-sharing programs, which provide employers a practical alternative to layoffs during downturns. This legislation represents a major investment in the UI program—one that will go a long way toward stabilizing the U.S. economy in the face of unprecedented economic displacement—but it’s not enough.

In the next legislative package, Congress will have to enact real structural reform to the UI programs such as finally mandating a minimum of 26 weeks of UI in all states, requiring states to replace a higher share of people’s lost income, fixing extended benefits triggers, and enacting other reforms to drive up UI recipiency. Emergency short-term measures are urgently necessary but so is shoring up UI and other social insurance programs for the long term and fixing the underlying problems with the system.

Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave

We are also extremely disappointed that the legislation does not plug any of the holes in the paid sick days and paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. All workers need paid sick days and paid family leave.

Health and Safety Protections for Front Line Workers

It’s unconscionable that there is no mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for health care workers and other at-risk workers. We must immediately protect all workers.

Excluded Workers

Further, this bill, fails to mention the millions of incarcerated people and undocumented immigrants throughout the country who are at heightened health and safety risk and cannot access the aid it provides.

This historic economic crisis has been a long time in the making due to structural weaknesses in our economy, and it’s why workers and advocates have demanded long-term systemic solutions. The pandemic only precipitated the downturn.

Nonetheless, the Senate package will alleviate hardship for millions, and we urge immediate passage by the House and signing by the President. We extend our solidarity as workers in the formal and informal economies advance health and safety and economic solutions so they may survive and thrive.

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